An object lesson in the decline and fall of the Roman Empire was my visit, some years ago, to the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, in Ravenna. It wasn't exactly the Grand Tour of Byron - more a month's interailing with classical intent. For those who may be hazy on Galla, she was the last Empress of the Western Empire and died a year before Attila the Hun sacked Italy. She had a rather impressive final resting place built (now a World Heritage Site) and I recall, my overwhelming feeling that this last grandiose act, of the last Empress, of the last truly cultural conquest was in stark contrast to the decay of Roman Empire, and its subsequent fall, of which she must have been acutely aware.
I suppose the lesson for today is, one should always endeavour to reflect one's station in life. To do otherwise attracts derision. With this in mind I come to our position as a nation on the world's stage.
There is an interesting story in the Telegraph today about the former Deputy Director of MI6, Nigel Inkster.
"In a speech at the Institute for Public Policy Research, Mr Inkster blamed weakness at the Foreign Office for allowing Britain to get dragged into a war (Iraq) over which officials had serious doubts."
he also said, (of Afghanistan)
"Britain has been attempting to implement an agenda that is "ludicrously at variance with the resources allocated to that task"
And now comes his revealing explanation:
"The Foreign Office no longer does foreign policy," Mr Inkster said. "It acts as a platform for a multiplicity of UK departments and the lack of a clearly articulated sense of our strategic location in the world explains how we got dragged into a war with Iraq which was always against our better judgment."
That paragraph leapt out at me.
It begs the question, "What is our strategic location in the world?"
It can no longer be said, as was said by the Diplomat, Sir Eyre Crowe, in 1907,
The general character of England's foreign policy is determined by the immutable conditions of her geographical situation on the ocean flank of Europe as an island state with vast overseas colonies and dependencies whose existence and survival as an independent community are inseparably bound up with the possession of preponderant sea power.'
And yet, in many ways we still behave as if this is true, for, we are talking seriously about a replacement for Trident, a sea-borne weapon designed to strike at an enemy which no longer exists. Do we need to maintain hundreds of embassies, worldwide, filled with empire furniture, diplomats and industrial quantities of Ferrero Rocher, despite the fact that email is a bit quicker than the diplomatic courier?
Harold Wilson told us "We are a world power, and a world influence, or we are nothing." , thus proving that until recently, Britain still saw itself, at least in terms of foreign policy, as a world power. By 1984, Geoffrey Howe was admitting, "Britain may no longer be a global power, but it still has global interests, political and economic - and in a highly competitive world these interests have to be promoted and protected.'
Of course, the very nature of modern communications gives an impression that we are a global village and that domestic and foreign policy cannot be treated as totally separate issues.
'We live in a modern world in which nation states are interdependent. In that modern world foreign policy is not divorced from domestic policy but a central part of any political programme.'
Robin Cook, 1997
I suppose it is at this point that an answer starts to emerge. If Cook was right, and international and domestic concerns exist in symbiotic relations to one another, then in order to take a view on Foreign Policy, one must have a clearly defined domestic agenda.
There is a lack of a clearly articulated sense of our strategic location in the world
because there is a lack of a clearly articulated sense of ourselves at home.
In thrall to public corruption, pluralism, multiculturalism, liberal nihilism and minority faux martyrdom, we have become a nation of the small minded, whose only hope for significance is to climb the pyramid of hegemony, by whatever means the state allows, balancing upon the shoulders of the vanquished, scapegoats of the politically correct 21st Century.
Until we get ourselves straight, we have a fat chance of sorting out the woes of the rest of the world and our foreign policy will remain a shameful reflection of our national decline. If not, all we will have is museums and mausoleums and gilded embassies with their whited sepulchres, standing, like Ozymandias, in ironic symbolism, telling us, it's over.
Charles Crawford has a take on this HERE
This is quite pertinent:
Civil servants are like everyone else - they need motivating and a clear sense of direction from the top. If that falters, decay and listlessness set in.
The decline in basic standards of work and thought since 1997 has been unrelenting and impressive. One reason I myself left.
(Nice to meeet you at lunch on Saturday, Charles. Mrs Weasel and I thoroughly enjoyed it.)